How to Protect Your Online 12 Step Meeting against Trolls, Zoom Bombers and Griefers
During this time of great upheaval due to coronavirus, our recovery community is likely to see an increase in relapse rates, mental health issues and suicides. With the inability to attend 12 Step Meetings, we still need a way to share our experience, strength and hope with each other and with new people struggling with addiction and alcoholism. It gives us purpose and is a cornerstone of our recovery program.
I know a lot of people, not just people in recovery, are afraid and feeling isolated right now. I feel very fortunate to have an active recovery community in my life that knows how to support each other. This translated online through Zoom very quickly. Our Zoom meetings are growing daily all over the world. People show up in the Zoom rooms before and stay after to connect with each other… just like we do in the physical world. And most importantly, many new people struggling with addiction in their isolation or those who are in very early sobriety are showing up to the online meetings.
A consistent topic heard in our online meetings is that if we were still drinking and using drugs this would be the perfect environment to self-destruct — fear of the unknown, lack of support, isolation, financial insecurity. This is why these newly created Zoom meetings are a lifeline for those of us in recovery during this global crisis we are experiencing. The Online meetings help us stay grateful for what we have and that includes each other, our sobriety and the Fellowship.
The strength of our recovery is in our unity and our individual recovery depends upon it.
However, many of us hosting and attending 12 Step meetings have noticed a recent rash of abusive behavior from “attendees” who are committed to disrupting our meetings.
We have seen some of the following “bad actions”:
- Screensharing pornography, violence and hate speech
- Unmuting and heckling the speakers with hate speech
- Hate speech in the chat stream
- Cameras pointed to unwanted visuals — nakedness, video monitors with inappropriate content and actions
- Harassment through private chats
- Screenshots/Recordings of meeting attendees
Many in our community are upset with the “hackers” taking over our meetings. This, however, is not accurate. We are not being hacked. We are just not setting up our Zoom meetings correctly to avoid getting “trolled”. The good news is, that we can definitely create a secure meeting by taking some simple steps.
Here are some tips for Meeting Hosts to deal with these issues.
Before The Meeting
It important to have your settings in your account configured properly for security. Your settings are easier to administrate in a web browser than in the Zoom app.
The most important settings to have set as a default for securing your meeting:
- Enable Mute Participants Upon Entry (You can toggle on and off during meeting)
- Disable Chat and Private Chats (You can toggle on and off during meeting)
- Disable ability to Save Chats
- Disable File Transfer
- Enable Co-hosts
- Enable Polling (Optional but handy for Group Conscience)
- Enable Allow Host to Put Attendee on Hold (You do this sometimes rather than REMOVE to avoid mishaps in removing the wrong person. It is the same as Remove but you can undo it more easily.)
- Disable Screen sharing
- Disable Annotation
- Disable Allow Removed Participants to Rejoin
- Disable Virtual Background (it gets abused by trolls)
- Disable Recording options
- Enable Blur Screenshots
During the Meeting:
- Assign A Co-Host: Assign a co-host to help you administrate the meeting. The best meetings have 2 people working together to run the meeting.
Once your meeting is enabled in the settings (do this before the meeting), you can assign a co-host during your meeting to help you with unmuting.
The co-host helps the Secretary/Host run the meeting by:
- Unmuting/Muting Participants before and after sharing
- Lowering Raised Hands after Sharing
- Removing Trolls (Remove or Put On Hold)
- Lock the Meeting once it has been cleared of abusive behavior/attendees
- Enabling and Disabling Chat during Birthdays, Newcomers and Out-of-towners (Watch out for trolls you may have missed during these chat openings)
- Screensharing Readings so we don’t have to wait for volunteers to find the readings or get their glasses, etc. (Hosts can still screenshare)
2. Double check that Only Host can Screen Share located in the UP Arrow next to Screen Share
3. Turn off the ability for Participants to Unmute themselves (In the MORE menu located in the bottom of the Participants window)
4. Turn off chatting in the beginning of the meeting and turn off the ability for Private Chatting among Participants (Click on … in the chat settings menu in the chat window)
There have been so many great contributors in making this transition to Online Recovery Meetings. Many have created centralized lists of meetings all over the world. Many of us have been training hosts and helping our seniors get comfortable with the technology so they are not isolated during this time.
We can definitely all work together to create a safe space for people and still keep the meetings “open” for newcomers to find us. It would be unfortunate if we had to go “underground” and create restricted access to our meetings. Especially during a time of great anxiety when people need support. It could mean life or death for many if our meetings are not safe and easily accessible.
Please let me know in the comments if you have any more tips to contribute. Our community is important and necessary for our well-being and we need to protect it.
Stay safe, sane and sober!